Allegheny sophomore Chase Balla (New Kensington, PA/Valley), Denison senior Canaan Gebele (Annapolis, MD/Broadneck) and Wittenberg junior Jonathan Seay (Miramar, FL/Miramar) have been named the Players of the Year to highlight the 2018 All-North Coast Athletic Conference football selections.
Gebele is the third individual at Denison to earn the Mike Gregory Award as the NCAC's Offensive Player of the Year following former Big Red student-athletes DuShawn Brown (2014) and Chris Spriggs (1985 & 1986). The award is presented in honor of Mike Gregory, a multi-sport standout at Denison in the 1920's. Seay is the third-consecutive Wittenberg Tiger that has claimed the Hank Critchfield Award as the league's Defensive Player of the Year after Dustin Holmes (2016) and Chandler Ferko (2017) collected the hardware. The award is presented in honor of Hank Critchfield, who was a 1927 graduate of The College of Wooster. Finally, Balla is the recipient of the NCAC's Special Teams Player of the Year award.
Gebele, who elevated to the first team from back-to-back selections to the second team (2016 & 2017), has established himself as one of the all-time greats to compete for the Big Red. He is the third player in NCAC history to surpass 10,000 yards of total offense in his career after compiling 2,085 yards this season. Through 10 regular-season games, he currently ranks in the top-25 nationally in seven different categories, sitting second in points responsible for (252), 13th in passing efficiency (166), 18th in rushing touchdowns (14), 21st in total touchdowns (16), 22nd in total points scored (96), 24th in yards per pass attempt (8.62) and 25th in passing touchdowns (25). The Big Red's signal caller tossed two or more touchdown passes on nine different occasions this season and three or more touchdowns in four games including two NCAC games in which he threw four touchdowns. He is Denison's career leader in passing yards (7,540), completions (626), and touchdown passes (66). He also ranks ninth in rushing yards (2,454) and is second in rushing touchdowns (38). Gebele has racked up 10,004 yards and is responsible for 106 touchdowns since 2015.
Seay, who is now the 11th Wittenberg player in program history to earn the Hank Critchfield Award, has been named to the first team for the second-consecutive season. He and his teammates allowed just 231 points through 10 games and were among the top defensive squads in the conference with six defensive touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He closed out his junior campaign with 77 total tackles (40 solo, 37 asst.), which included 4.5 sacks. Seay, who also had two interceptions and one fumble recovery, started out the 2018 campaign with a season-high 14 tackles which included a career-high seven solo tackles in a 34-21 win over Westminster on Sept. 1.
Balla was selected as the league's top special teams player after he played a role in establishing field position for a Gators squad that posted its highest winning percentage in NCAC games since 2010 with a conference record of 6-3 (.667). The sophomore totaled 476 yards off of 17 kick returns for an average of 28 yards per return. He recorded three of his longest returns, 50-plus yards, to finish out the final three regular-season games including a career-high 74-yard return against Wabash on Nov. 3. Balla also totaled 50 tackles, 8.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery in 2018.
Wabash freshman defensive back Jose Franco (Bronx, NY/Cardinal Hayes) was named the NCAC's Newcomer of the Year as the top player in the league in his first year of collegiate competition in the sport of football. The rookie totaled 54 tackles (42 solo, 12 asst.) with eight broken up passes, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. He recorded a tackle for a loss in Wabash's 28-21 victory over Wittenberg on Oct. 27.
Finally, Wabash head coach Don Morel, in his third season at the helm of the Little Giants, was named the NCAC Football Coach of the Year for the first time in his career after guiding his team to a near-perfect 9-1 record during the regular season. His squad earned a share of the NCAC title this season with an 8-1 mark in conference play. In his three seasons at Wabash, Morel owns an overall record of 25-5, which includes a 22-5 mark against NCAC opponents.